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March Madness 2018: Elite Prospects Who Will Improve Draft Stock

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 3, 2018

Kentucky forward Kevin Knox II (5) takes a three point shot against Texas A&M during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)
Sam Craft/Associated Press

When the NCAA men's basketball tournament rolls around, all types of basketball fans tune in.

For those not familiar with the men's college basketball game, March Madness is their first introduction to the next generation of NBA stars.

For NBA teams and scouts, the Big Dance is used to see what some of the top prospects can do on the sport's biggest stage.

Entering March Madness, there are a plethora of players looking to improve their respective draft stocks from senior leaders to freshman phenoms.

Below is a look at three players with different draft profiles who could improve their draft stock in the next month.

       

Kevin Knox, Kentucky

Kevin Knox is regarded as one of the top prospects in the NBA Draft class of 2018, but he hasn't starred on a widespread level, as Kentucky has experienced a few hiccups.

With the Wildcats picking up steam ahead of the SEC and NCAA tournaments, Knox is set to showcase his skills as the most polished player on the roster.

Knox leads the team in scoring with 15.8 points per game, and he's reached double figures in each of the last seven games.

LEXINGTON, KY - FEBRUARY 28:  Kevin Knox #5 of the Kentucky Wildcats dribbles the ball against the Ole Miss Rebels during the game at Rupp Arena on February 28, 2018 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Listed at 6'9", Knox's length is what causes the most difficulty to opponents, as he can contribute from different areas of the court.

What intrigues NBA teams about Knox is his age, as he'll be 18 when the draft rolls around, which means his game has plenty of room to grow as his body matures.

Knox isn't a potential No. 1 pick like past Kentucky one-and-done players have been, but he's certainly worth a look in the lottery selections.

If he leads the young Wildcats on a run into the second weekend of the NCAA tournament, Knox could find his way into the top five discussion, but at the worst, he's a top-10 pick right now.

      

Devonte Graham, Kansas

Devonte Graham is trying to replicate the success Frank Mason had for Kansas a year ago.

Graham isn't a teenager with plenty of room to grow, he's a senior leader who has battled through plenty of close games in college.

Although his skill set may not compare to starters at the NBA level, Graham could be a serviceable role player and value pick in the second round of the NBA Draft.

How long Graham waits to hear his name called depends on how well he shines on the NCAA tournament stage for the final time.

LUBBOCK, TX - FEBRUARY 24: Devonte' Graham #4 of the Kansas Jayhawks dribbles around Tommy Hamilton IV #0 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the game on February 24, 2018 at United Supermarket Arena in Lubbock, Texas. Kansas defeated Texas Tech 74-72. (
John Weast/Getty Images

What Graham should display in March is his ability to step up in clutch situations, much like Mason showed during his final season at Kansas.

The senior guard has shown throughout his career that he can fit a variety of roles and contribute in every part of the box score.

Graham averages 17.7 points per game, a total that has risen four points from his junior season, as well as 7.2 assists and 4.1 rebounds while shooting 42.3 percent from three-point range.

If he takes Kansas on a deep run in the Big Dance, Graham's stock will rise and he'll earn a similar draft fate as Mason, who was selected 34th overall by the Sacramento Kings in 2017.

     

Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State

Few players have seen their stock soar as much as Ohio State's Keita Bates-Diop this season.

After averaging 9.7 points per game a year ago, the forward is close to 20 points per game entering March Madness.

Due to his resurgence under first-year head coach Chris Holtmann, Bates-Diop has turned into an intriguing NBA Draft prospect that could be selected in the first round.

The forward, who is listed at 6'7", does a little bit of everything for the Buckeyes, as he averages 8.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.7 blocks and one steal per contest.

BLOOMINGTON, IN - FEBRUARY 23: Keita Bates-Diop #33 of the Ohio State Buckeyes is seen during the game against Josh Newkirk #2 of the Indiana Hoosiers at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on February 23, 2018 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Get
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Bates-Diop also developed into a leader on the Buckeyes roster as they achieved a good amount of success in the Big Ten, and they are poised for a decent run in the NCAA tournament.

Since he has the ability to contribute in all facets of the game, Bates-Diop should receive plenty of attention from NBA scouts once the college season ends.

Although he's not a marquee name like Knox and many of the one-and-done players, he's a good value pick for an established team.

       

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.

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